The quantity and quality of food that children and adolescents eat helps determine their cognitive and physical potential, and they know it. In 2021, UNICEF and Western Sydney University held a series of workshops with adolescents in 18 countries to discuss how to improve food systems and access to safe and nutritious foods. As a participant from Nepal acknowledged, “Food is the energy force of a person and is a fundamental aspect for the human being.” Additionally, a participant from Kenya said, “Food is more than just what we eat, food is what defines us and a major social factor that brings us together.”
The 2.4 billion youth (10–29 years) around the world can influence behaviors and social norms around food production, purchase, and consumption among their peers, families, and even communities. Their influence can help shape the future of food—and their own nutrition and health. But here’s the challenge: We don’t know whether or how youth involvement in food systems affects diet and nutrition outcomes, individually or societally.